Piñatex: Pineapple leaf fibres providing a sustainable alternative to leather

Leather-like material, Piñatex, made from pineapple leaf fibres, is providing the fashion world with a sustainable alternative to leather.

The new textile, created by Carmen Hijosa, is the by-product of the pineapple harvest, therefore no extra land, water, fertiliser or pesticides are required to produce Piñatex.

A strong and sustainable textile, Piñatex is being used by fashion brands including vegan shoe brand, Bourgeois Boheme, as an alternative to leather. Bourgeois Boheme will  launch a new line of womens and mens shoes, made from Piñatex, as part of its Spring-Summer 17 (SS17) collection. The collection will be available to purchase online and at a London pop-up store from next month.

Other shoe brands including Puma and Camper have also developed prototypes using the Piñatex material.

While Piñatex is being made into footwear and fashion accessories, it can also be used in interiors, furnishings and the car and aeronautic industries.

Carmen Hijos is quick to note that the new leather isn’t just about providing a vegan alternative to traditional leather, but is just as much about making consumers conscious of their choices.

The global leather industry is facing an ever-growing demand for leather goods – mainly shoes – to the point that supply cannot keep up with consumers’ needs. Leather is becoming scarce and prices are increasing. The production process has an impact on the environment as leather is a by-product of the meat industry and the chemicals used for tanning is a pollutant.

“We all like to wear leather. We have got leather shoes and handbags. However there is more demand than supply. There is really not enough leather for everybody”, says Carmen Hijosa. “The environment is suffering and the people who are making leather are also suffering from the non-sustainable processes they are using.”

The concept for Piñatex was brought to life when Carmen Hijosa, who had spent 15 years of working in the design and manufacturing of leather goods, was sent on a work trip to the Philippines to help develop the leather industry.

Whilst in the Philippines, Carmen Hijosa came to the realisation that leather was not a sustainable product. She recalls: “I need to do something about this. I’m a maker. I know leather – but we need an alternative.”

The alternative was presented to her on that very same trip to the Philippines, where she found that many of the local products, including bags and materials, were made from fibres from the pineapple plant.

What followed was seven years of intense research undertaken by Carmen Hijosa on pineapple fibres. This led to the development of the new material, Piñatex, and the creation of her company, Ananas Anam, in 2013.

To produce Piñatex, the pineapple fibres get made into a mesh, which goes through mechanical and chemical processes, to get to the finished result.

Ananas Anam supports pineapple-farming communities in the Philippines, where they are developing a new industry that will enhance the social network in rural areas as farmers will be able to sell fibres as a commercial and viable proposition.

The company also expect the farming communities to benefit from the potential output of natural fertiliser/biogas which is the by-product of pineapple fibre extraction.

Ananas Anam are looking at partnerships with other pineapple-growing developing countries to join in the production of Piñatex, which will support local economies and strengthen their exports.

Ananas Anam

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer specialising in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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